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Life and art are political

August 21, 2004

Douglas MacKINNON's Counterpunch article ["Insert Bias in Films -- Deduct From the Bottom Line," Aug. 16] detailed his self-described "Republican" take as to how, if someone was to buy one of his screenplays, he "would do everything" in his power "to ensure that it contains no political viewpoint" and that if moviemakers "want to get into politics, then they can run for office, take out ads or make documentaries." May I humbly submit this is a lousy way to approach a career in movies, literature or art of any kind?

Under this rubric, MacKinnon would have been unable or unwilling to contribute to the scripts of films as diverse as "Dr. Strangelove," "Network," "To Be or Not To Be," "Confessions of a Nazi Spy," "Coming Home," "Apocalypse Now," "The Green Berets," "Full Metal Jacket," "Fail-Safe," "Spartacus," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Meet John Doe," "I Was a Communist for the FBI," "The Parallax View," "The Great Dictator," "All the King's Men," "A Face in the Crowd," "The Best Man," "The Last Hurrah," "The Alamo," "Seven Days in May" etc., not including decades of classic European films, which have always embraced agitprop.

All movies are political, either overtly or coded, often unwittingly. Life is political. To pretend otherwise is to kid yourself and your audience. The idea of abrogating your point of view as an author because it might "potentially drive down the box-office for your film" seems to me a recipe for Instant Bad Art.

Of which we have enough already, don't you think?

Joe Dante

Los Angeles


Let MacKinnon neuter his "product," as he denotes his work, if that is his inclination. The void at the center of the work without viewpoint speaks volumes about the soul of the writer ... or, should I say, the maker of the product.

Richard P. McDonough


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